Summary: Every day we choose either peace or war.
“Faith That Works: Raising a Good Harvest”
Wives and mothers – it’s an extremely hot and humid day. You’ve been shopping all day for the family. Half the stuff you couldn’t find or the price had gone up. But you’re pretty well set and have just one stop left. After driving around the huge parking lot for the third time you see a car leaving a spot. You drive up close and wait for the car to pull away – and as it does you see someone else zooming in from the other way. What will you do, think, and feel?
Men, it’s been a rough day at work. You’re hot, tired, tried, tested, and out of patience. All you want is a little peace and quiet. You’re glad to get home, take your shoes off, find a cool drink, put your feet up, and grab the remote. You’re all set for the next hour. But your wife has had it with the kids. She’s talked to no one over 5 years of age all day long and has a whole ton of information heaped up to spew out to you. And here she comes! What will you do, think, and feel?
Youth – you’re at the amusement park on the hottest day of the year. It’s late and you’re in line for one last trip on your favorite ride. You’ve stood in line for almost 2 hours. The line is moving again and you know you’re getting in this time. Then, at the last moment, two kids sneak in line and pass you by. As they approach the turnstile, you hear the park attendant say there’s room for just two more – them. What will you do, think, and feel?
Each of these situations deal with the everyday occurrence of choosing either peace or war. James makes the choice clear (3:17-18): “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap (raise) a harvest of righteousness.” The question is, why is it so difficult for us to make that choice?
James begins by making A POWERFUL ACCUSTATION. 4:1 – “What causes fights and quarrels among you?” James raises THE KEY ISSUE behind our difficulty in choosing. People know the devastation of fighting and quarreling. It cripples, kills, and destroys immeasurably. People are hurt and scarred; families are split and broken; humanness is forgotten. We cannot justify what takes place, yet it does. What is it that can cause a person who would normally stop to help the poor stranger to suddenly fight and wage war against someone else?
Knowing that most of us participate in quarreling and fighting at some point, James pointedly asks, WHY IS THERE THE FIGHTING AMONG US? WE are Christians who ought to, by Jesus command, love each other; so what about the daily rifts between us and others? Why do people – why do we – turn on others? It’s been a question since the days of Cain who killed his brother Abel. We cannot seem to identify and eradicate the root causes of conflict. We’re no better at it in our homes and families than the United Nations is between nations. What causes fighting? What leads to strife? Why is there so much quarreling and hostility? This is the issue.
James is quick to shoot down any MISGUIDED ILLUSIONS. 4:1 – “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” The problem is not ‘out there’ somewhere, or within someone else; it’s OUR PERSONAL INTERESTS. Fights and quarrels originate in our passions and desires. The passions of our hearts drive us. If I want it, I should have it. It if makes me feel better, it’s all right. If it feels good, do it. If it’s in my heart, if I feel this way, I’m entitled to it. Remember the situations in the introduction? Women, what will you do in the parking lot? Men, what will you do with the remote. Young people, what will you do in the amusement park line?
James continues (4:2): “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.” The word ‘desire’ comes from the Greek word hedon, from which we get the term hedonist. A hedonist is a pleasure seeker who pursues his or her own desires. The phrase ‘quarrel and fight’ come from stratouomai from which we get the word strategy. James is saying that WE WANT WHAT WE DO NOT HAVE AND ESPECIALLY WHAT WE CANNOT GET. And since our sinful hearts long for pleasure they strategize ways to get it. Think about it. We do seem to develop strong passions for those things we know we cannot have. Have you ever noticed how a child tries so hard to get a treat they’ve been told they cannot have? Once these desires get strong enough we won’t let anything stand in our way. We are even willing to sacrifice people on the altars of our desires.